Everyone knows what it feels like to be sad. Whether it’s because you broke up with your significant other, your cherished pet died, you lost a family member or any of a hundred other reasons, your mood can take a nose dive when life batters you. Sometimes you feel listless and your appetite vanishes, and you try to do the things that you know made you happy before but you just can’t. For many people this sadness goes away over time, but for others it doesn’t. And for some people, there’s no precipitating event to cause the sorrow in the first place. If you find you’re one of these people whose sadness seems to be caused by nothing and that your mood is consistantly low then you might suffer from clinical depression.
While the stigma of having depression is being eliminated due to education and efforts of mental health professionals, there are still a lot of misconceptions about depression as an illness. For instance, signs of depression do include; loss of interest and pleasure in normal activities, loss of appetite, lack of energy, loss of sex drive or libido, insomnia or excessive sleeping, indecisiveness, lack of focus, suicidal thoughts or actions, feelings of guilt or worthlessness, anxiety and even crying spells for no reason. Now these aren’t all of the potential symptoms of depression, but a complete list can be found at the Mayo Clinic.
There seems to be a misconception among people as regards all of these symptoms though. No, you don’t need to suffer from all of them to be depressed. You also have to suffer from them consistently for a fairly long period of time (the minimum that many symptoms expect is six weeks, though longer is common for some diagnosis). Additionally, this list of signs and symptoms is not a definitive checklist as to whether or not you are in fact clinically depressed. It is however a rough guide. Say for instance that you have been undergoing random crying jags, that you’re listless, you have a lack of appetite and that you feel anxious. Now let’s say that this has been going on for roughly six months or so. However, let’s say the patient is undergoing hormone therapy… the explanation may in fact be the drugs that the patient is already taking, and not that the patient has clinical depression.
There’s one more, important point about depression. When it comes down to it, whether or not a person is depressed has to be decided by a mental health professional. This person, whether a counselor, a psychologist or a psychiatrist knows what signs to look for and what constitutes a real, serious condition that qualifies as depression. Whether it’s through interviews and conversation, chemical tests or some combination of the two. With all of the commercials for anti-depressant drugs, and the culture that teaches it’s okay to have a mental illness, many people believe that they have depression before they even describe their symptoms. They’ll go to a counselor and list off what they saw in a hospital’s list, and expect the counselor to help make it go away. Unfortunately, diagnosing yourself isn’t legitimate, and many people who do it will be very disappointed to hear that the psychologist doesn’t agree with the diagnosis the patient has his or her heart set on.